Question: Should consecrated Christians arrange for their bodies to be cremated after death, rather than to be buried?
Answer: One passage which shows God’s disapproval of cremation is Amos 2: 1: “Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime.”
The burning of dead bodies was never the custom in Israel. In fact, it was directed by God’s law for two offenses only: a man’s taking a wife and her mother, and harlotry by a priest’s daughter (Leviticus 20: 14) (Leviticus 21: 9) [compare Genesis 38: 24].
Additionally, the bodies of especially wicked criminals were burned in the Valley of Hinnom, known in the New Testament as Gehenna. The object of this burning of the criminals’ bodies in Gehenna was to make the crimes and the criminals detestable in the eyes of the people (compare Joshua 7: 25).
Burial or entombment of the dead, and not cremation, has been the practice of God’s people from ancient times. The first business transaction mentioned in the Bible is Abraham’s purchase of the cave of Machpelah as a burial place (Genesis 23: 3-20), after the death of Sarah (v. 2). We also read of the burial of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. (Genesis: 25: 9) (Genesis 35: 29) (Genesis 50).
In New Testament times, the practice of God’s people has also been burial or entombment of the dead. When John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod, “his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus (Matthew 14: 12).
At Lazarus’ tomb, after he had been dead four days and his body was emitting a most unpleasant and offensive odor (John 11: 39), our Lord did not suggest to Martha that it might have been more hygienic to have had him cremated!
Jesus expected to be buried (Matthew 26: 12) and was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27: 57-60). Many other cases could be cited, such as that of St. Stephen (Acts 8: 2), etc.
On the other hand, burial today is quite expensive compared with cremation, so while burial is preferable, ultimately it is a personal decision for each consecrated individual to make for himself or herself.